WorldWine Tasting Highlight

2013-11-18

Syrah: The next big thing?

the wines

Well, this was none of our usual tastings. No tasting for which we had defined a theme, inviting everyone whose wines "fitted" to submit their samples. At the origin of this tasting was a conversation during the last South African road show in Berlin, when Mike Mundt of Pacific Wine Company, a German importer of New World Wines, asked me if I would like to taste some of the Syrahs / Shirazes which he imported. Of course, was my spontaneous answer, but I added that I would have liked to "invite" some of my Old World favorites in order to compare the different styles, a request which he readily accepted. A sportsmanship which not many of his collegues would have shown in similar situations.


Montes in Chile's Colchagua Valley produces on of the outstanding Srah wines which have come into the world during the last decades. (photo: E. Supp)

Why Syrah? Well, simply because I am increasingly convinced that Syrah is potentially one of the most polyglot varieties of our modern wine world, a variety which - unlike Merlot and others - can produce outstanding wines under many different conditions and circumstances. Ronny Melck in South Africa, Grange and Hill of Grace in Australia, Nostos in Greece, Italy, Brazil, Spain, Austria and, of course, France ... Is this the next big thing in the wine industry? Perhaps yes, perhaps no, but already today Syrah certainly looks like a real "jack of all trades" variety.

The variety which probably has its origin in the French Rhône-Alpes region - its parents Mondeuse blanche and Dureza were cultivated on both banks of the Rhône river (Robinson, Harding & Vouillamoz, 2012) - is one which balances structure and fruit like not many others if only the ripening conditions are approximatively ok.

More than beeing a real competition between Syrah-growing countries - some of the most famous names like Guigal's Mouline and Turque, Australia's Hill of Grace, Limelight or Grange, Scali, Muratie, Montes Alpha and others were missing anyway - the aim of our tasting was to compare different Syrah styles. As we all know, style is a point where you rapidly encounter deep seated prejudice: wines from the New World are fat, alcoholic, those from the Old World more slim and elegant.

But, as so often is the case, things can be more complicated. Our wine with the highest alcohol degree (15 %) came from Austria, not really a New World country, and all the others, no matter if the were Old oder New World, showed between 13.5 and 14.5 degrees. Even more dazzling: some of the wines whose taste seemed to indicate higher alcohol level, did not exceed 14 degrees and others, which seemed more elegant, were up to 14.5 or 15 degrees. As far as our three winners from Australia, Greece and Italy are concerned, they unanimously noted 14.5 degrees.

And yet, notwithstanding the confusing alcoholic degree, the European samples, which in part were very young, often seem firmer and more heavily structured, whereas those from the New World showed more fruit and roundness. If it comes to my favorite wines they very often showed a style which I defined half way between the Old and the New - and perhaps this is exactly the recipe which could guarantee the future succes of Syrah as a world variety. If then the producers can develop clearly recognizable regional characters of their Syrahs I am sure that the variety really will be the next big thing.


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The wines

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***** Elderton Wines - SA 5335 Nuriootpa, Barossa Valley Command Shiraz 2006
***** Manousakis Winery - 1 Vatolakos Chania, Tafelwein Nostos Syrah 2010
*****Az. Agr. Fattoria Isole e Olena-SIA Alto Chianti - 50021 Barberino Val D'Elsa, Toscana Igt Syrah Collezione De Marchi 2007
*****Az. Agr. Fontodi - 50020 Greve In Chianti, Igt Toscana Centrale Syrah Case Via 2010
*****Domaine Comte de Thun - Château de Frausseilles - 81170 Frausseilles, Côtes-du-Tarn La Tarabelle 2008
***** ?Fattoria La Braccesca - Marchesi Antinori - 53045 Montepulciano, Toscana Igt Syrah Bramasole 2010
***** ? Hogue Cellars - WA 99350 Prosser, Columbia Valley Syrah Genesis 2009
***** ? Graham Beck Wines - 6705 Robertson, Robertson Shiraz The Rigde 2011
**** +Weingut Familie Gesellmann - 7301 Deutschkreutz, Mittelburgenland Syrah 2011
**** +Az. Agr. Farnetella Srl - Castello di Farnetella - 53040 Sinalunga, Toscana Syrah 2009
**** Torbreck Vintners - SA 5352 Tanunda, Barossa Valley Woodcutter’s Shiraz 2011
**** Cloof Wines - 7345 Darling, Darling Sexy Syrah 2010
**** Coriole Vineyards - SA 5171 Mclaren Vale, McLaren Vale Shiraz Redstone 2010
****Domaines François Villard - 42410 Chavanay, Saint-Joseph Côtes de Mairlant 2011
**** Fairview - 7625 Suider-Paarl, Coastal Region Shiraz 2010
**** ?Domaine E. Guigal - 69420 Ampuis, Côte-Rôtie Côte Brune et Blonde 2009
**** ?Fattoria La Braccesca - Marchesi Antinori - 53045 Montepulciano, Cortona Igt Syrah Achelo 2011
**** ?Bodegas Michel Torino - 4427 Cfayate, Cafayate Syrah Don David Reserve 2011
**** ? Francis Ford Coppola Winery - CA 94573 Rutherford, California Shiraz Rosso & Bianco 2011
**** ? Kir-Yianni S. A. - 59200 Naoussa, Topikos Imathia Dyo Elies 2009
**** ?Viña Ventisquero - Rancagua, Valle de Colchagua Syrah Grey 2009
**** ? Prieuré de Montézargues - G. Dugas - 30126 Tavel, Vin de France rouge Prieuré 2011
*** +Domaines François Villard - 42410 Chavanay, Saint-Joseph Reflet 2010
*** Elephant Hill Holdings Ltd - 4102 Te Awanga, Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2010
** Le Petit Domaine - Brosselin-Aurélien - 34150 Montpeyroux, Pays d’Hérault Myrmidon 2012
** Hope Estate - 23020 Pokolbin, Western Australia Shiraz The Ripper 2009
** Château de Valcombe - Ricome - 30510 Générac, Costières de Nîmes Syrah Garance 2010

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